When an MBA Degree Meets Medicine: A Spectacular Experience


Recently, my eyesight has deteriorated, so I consulted an ophthalmologist. Physicians are highly recommended and have MD and MBA qualifications. He founded his practice, which has grown to a dozen practitioners. proud of

According to data from Open Payments, the doctor has relationships with 10 pharmaceutical companies and will receive a total of nearly $20,000 in compensation in 2021. 60% of that is consulting fees and the rest is honoraria, travel, lodging, food and drinks. His industry payouts since 2015 are well above the US average and the average for his field of expertise.

I googled the doctor before my appointment. Feedback was generally positive, with occasional mentions of patients feeling rushed or being pushed into surgery. My test time was about 3 minutes. The doctor told me I had “dry eyes” and gave me a sample of a drug sold by a company he had a relationship with. Then came the bombshell: The doctor told me I needed cataract surgery, he decided to get a second opinion. It hurts to admit it, but I wished the doctor didn’t have his MBA degree or industry ties.

My pain stems from the fact that I am guilty of both reasons. I completed his MBA degree (1996) and worked in the pharmaceutical industry (2001-2014). While working for a large pharmaceutical company, I gave many promotional talks to physicians, visited “key opinion leaders,” i.e. influential physicians, and kept abreast of products in the pipeline and current scientific research. In this way, I was able to pass on my knowledge to other doctors. .

Should I apologize for my actions? Shouldn’t we be thinking less about the eye doctor? i don’t think so. We both have conflicts. Conflict is universal in medicine. It’s not how you declare conflict that matters, but how you manage it. The first rule for managing conflicts of interest is to recognize them. They are like blind spots (no pun intended): as we gain greater insight into ourselves and begin to act ethically, our conflicts diminish. Personal integrity is not taught in medical school or business school.

Doctors with MBA degrees are often thought to have been sold to big corporations or at least embroiled in disputes. I’m not convinced it’s true. I used to tell people I was conflicted just because I’m a psychiatrist. In fact, I asked for a second opinion for my own reassurance – I’m not sure if the initial recommendation for surgery was based on the ophthalmologist’s obligations to me as a patient and based on his role as a practitioner or pharmaceutical consultant. This is to make sure that it is not

The reality is that an MBA degree creates value and opens doors to new opportunities. More than ever, job descriptions state that an MBA degree is a “plus.” There is no doubt that medical institutions are looking for business-oriented doctors who can lead the “medical industry complex”. A dual degree comes with a salary premium. Perhaps most importantly, MBA-trained physicians understand the language of business, just as medical students are taught the language of medicine. Concerns that an MBA degree keeps doctors out of the clinic are unfounded.

Shortly after completing my MBA, I wrote a book about dual degree physicians (MD and DO with MBA degrees). My good friend and colleague Kenneth Veit (DO, MBA) was an “early adopter” and gave me the idea for his school of business. I asked him to contribute one of his chapters to this book. Specifically, he appeals the value of an MBA degree to a person in his position as president (now honorary) of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathy.

Veit said his decision to go to business school was the result of his growing interest in management. he wrote: “[An] MBA education is applicable [operational] Interaction … MBA skills are always working in the background. This database of knowledge comes to the fore when needed… [An MBA degree] It offers a set of skills that are rarely applied directly, but are at the same time used indirectly in various forms. “

A recent survey of 66 dual-degree orthopedic surgeons provided further insight. They were asked about their motivations for pursuing an MBA degree and its value. Most respondents (89.4%) consider an MBA degree to be highly valuable or valuable. Their time spent on administrative activities increased significantly and was in line with their goals. Business school also allowed me to focus on learning important management theories that are considered a prerequisite for leading a changing healthcare system.

I used my MBA degree slightly differently when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry. While in business school, I had the opportunity to study marketing in depth, and decided to apply that knowledge to a major pharmaceutical company. I have trained sales teams and reviewed all types of promotional materials for physicians and consumers on medical accuracy, completeness and reality.

Working as an “insider” can prevent potential FDA violations and reduce advertising in an area where drug companies struggle so hard: being fined for false or misleading prescription drug advertising. I was able to increase the credibility of the claim. I was asked, “Why do you give in to the spread of medicine?” The answer that came out of my mouth was:

However, butting heads with the “suit” was another matter. I understood the profit and loss as well as them. I was good at reading financial statements. I understood predictive models. I created a model in business school. One of my professor girlfriends told the class that she loves modeling for fun. We thought he was talking about replica cars!

Pharmaceutical politics eventually wore me down. But that’s not why I left my first job, a pharmaceutical company. A salesperson asked me to speak at a “lunch and learn” event held at a university medical center to promote a new drug for depression. I met the clerk in the parking lot. He had half a dozen large pizza boxes to take to the conference room. I offered to carry some boxes. We entered the room together. The faculty mistook me for a salesperson.

I realized I was getting too deep into the marketing machinery of a big pharmaceutical company, so I left the company for a more prestigious position in R&D. Still, he provided his skills to marketing teams throughout his career in the pharmaceutical industry, including generating ideas for television commercials. Having an MBA degree put me on a level playing field. Is there anyone other than a doctor who can advise directors and actors about portraying patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder?

Arthur Lazarus is a psychiatrist.


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